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IEP help and help with requesting a shortened school day



My 8 year old daughter completed 2nd grade this past school year and will be starting 3rd grade in August 2023. She has always enjoyed going to school but her behavior towards school this past school year changed in a negative way. My daughter would almost be in tears in the morning while getting ready for school because she didn't want to be at school all day. She gets picked up early from school at least 2 days a week for her therapeutic horseback riding and her occupational therapy and on the days that she doesn't get picked up early my daughter would be very upset about having to be at school all day which was very unusual. I reached out to her teachers about the behavior changes at home and they assured me that everything was fine at school. Her teachers were giving her extra support in the classroom and she was making good grades because of the extra support from her teachers. My daughter has a 504 but I felt like her behavior at home warranted further evaluation by the school and when my daughter had her appointment with her new Developmental Specialist in March 2023 the Developmental Specialist agreed that my daughter definitely needed to be evaluated by the school ASAP. I immediately submitted my written request to have my daughter evaluated by her school and she was evaluated for an IEP by her school in May 2023. When my daughter school psychologist emailed me a copy of the FIE report earlier this month she stated in the email the following "The evaluation supports that your child meets eligibility as a student with a specific learning disability in the areas of basic reading and written expression, as well as the characteristics of dyslexia and the related disorder of dysgraphia.
While the evaluation report supports the presence of a disability, the need for special education services is an ARDC decision. We will hold your child's ARD meeting within the first 15 school days of the 2023 - 2024 school year." I am looking for advice in all areas related to my daughter learning disability, upcoming ARD meeting and how I can help her in general. I am hoping that they will provide her with an IEP but there will be a lot of new administration at my daughter school this upcoming school year so this makes me extremely nervous because the previous administration was really understanding and willing to go above and beyond to make sure my daughter gets the services she needs. Also, I need advice on how to handle requesting a shorter school day for my daughter. My daughter school decided to do a different academic calendar for the 2023-2024 school year that involves a 4 day school week during the months of September - April and a five day school week during the months of August and May. School start time is 08:00 am and end time is 04:15 pm. Previous school start time was 08:00 am and end time was 03:30 pm. Because of a medical condition my daughter needs to leave school no later then 03:30 pm like she has since kindergarten. I have a letter from her doctor that states she needs a shortened school day during the 2023-2024 school year and I had already made arrangements with my daughter principal before the school year ended but I recently found out that the principal is not returning to my daughter school district so I am going to have to start over with making arrangements with a completely new principal. When I spoke to the previous principal she really didn't know if she could approve my request because she had never experienced this type of request before. I did share with her the information that A Day In Our Shoes website states from the OCR website on shortened school days specific to hidden disabilities and I believe that helped with making the principal not object my request but  with the new administration I don't know what to expect. I also want to mention that with my arrangements for a shortened school day I will be requesting that my daughter teacher keeps track of any missed teachings and school assignments that she will miss due to getting picked up at 03:30 pm and that on the last day of the school week the missed teachings and assignments be sent home for my daughter to attempt to complete during her school break days. I thank you in advance for your assistance with this matter. 

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So, there will be an IEP/ARD meeting when school starts up in the fall so at this point in time, you do not know what sort of support your child will get via their IEP nor what accommodations they will have beyond what's currently in their 504.  There's not much you can do right now since the ARD meeting requires teachers to attend and, right now, they are off for the summer.  On the other hand, there are things that can be done.

First, you are seeing school refusal/anxiety at home.  This can happen when a student realizes they are different from classmates & fear being bullied/teased because they are different.  Being pulled for services can also be a 'difference' that students get teased or bullied for.  The real question becomes:  Is getting the support they need going to help the anxiety?  Obviously, it will take time to bring your child up to speed/catch them up to where classmates are.  The other side of this is your child having access to the curriculum while they are catching up.  Audiobooks & and directions read to them and speech to text software or access to a keyboard are things that can help with access while special ed instruction catches your child up.  If the school's report says your child needs an IEP, the school should follow their report.  I'm curious if the anxiety was looked at & if that's in the report.  Talk to your child on how they feel about getting an IEP & the right support for their learning disability.  This way, you can advocate for support that will not cause the anxiety to go up.

Second, I'm assuming you gave the letter the doctor wrote to the principal & they documented this need in your child's file.  The school should use all the data they have to come up with the right supports for your child.  This letter is data that needs to be considered & accommodations should be granted.  Your child leaving school early in the past is also data that this was an accommodation in the past (even if this accommodation wasn't documented on the 504 like it should have been).  It's part of the data that should be in your child's file that's used at the ARD meeting.  What is currently in the 504 should be incorporated into the IEP.

Third, if you will be helping your child with missed work, you want to be on the same page as the teachers.  This might mean that parent training is needed in the systematic reading protocol the teachers will be using.  This can & should be in the IEP.

Lastly, with knowing that your child will not be in the school building beyond 3:30, make sure that the special instruction your child will be getting isn't scheduled for when they will be out of the building.  I've seen where a student was to get help 1X per week and they were pulled for outside therapy 1X per week and guess when their sp ed class was scheduled?  (If you guess when they were pulled for therapy, give yourself a point.)

As a postscript, make sure the special instruction they put in the IEP is something that's evidenced/researched to help students with "the characteristics of dyslexia and the related disorder of dysgraphia."  Also look at the progress monitoring reports that you'll be getting.  Students need to progress more than one year every school year to catch up to classmates.  If progress is slower than this, the remedial instruction might not be a good match for your child's disability.  You don't want a child who is 2 years behind to stay 2 years behind or worse, become 2 and a half years behind when they go into 4th grade.  Also, make sure that the 3:30 thing is well documented.  You don't want to end up in a truancy situation because of after school therapy.  You might need excuse notes for everytime you get her at 3:30.  This is the school's "game" so make sure you are playing by their "rules" - ask what's needed and follow what they say.  (Ask in writing & hope they reply in writing so you have written proof of their policy.  If not write them an email 'confirming our conversation on Aug 12, 2023 as to how to document XX leaving at 3:30 everyday' so you do have it in writing.)

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